Many parents look to rabbits as a great option for their child’s first pet. It can be very rewarding to witness children bonding with animals, but that does not mean that choosing a pet is always a simple task. Rabbits are much less complicated pets than many others you might choose from, but there are factors to consider.
Your child will need to show a certain degree of responsibility in order to successfully care for their pet, so consider whether they are ready and genuinely interested. Both children and pets require exercise, so their bonding could be mutually beneficial, but we advise waiting for the age of 12 at least so that children can better understand some of the challenges involved.
Consider the following pointers to assess whether a rabbit will be a good fit for your family.
Rabbits are largely gentle, easy to keep, and can offer a lot of love and affection to your child. Bunnies that have really taken to their owners may follow them around and leap into their arms given the chance. Your child may love having a rabbit who adores them back and allows them to play and cuddle.
The inclusion of a toy for the rabbit to chew can be a good way of making sure your rabbit doesn’t bite your child, however unlikely. Plus, the fact that rabbits can be litter trained like cats is also a bonus, as are the cost-effective prices for veterinary treatments.
Reasons for taking a rabbit to the vet tend to include upper respiratory issues, such as nasal discharge or wheezing, as well as loss of weight or appetite. These issues usually result from poor care, however, so if you’re good owners there’s little reason to fear hidden costs.
Addressing the likely complications first is the best way of establishing what to avoid before going ahead with purchasing a new rabbit for your child. You will know how responsible your child is becoming, so make a reasonable assumption as to the level of care and attention they will pay to a pet rabbit on a daily basis. Be honest about rabbit waste and the fact that clearing up after their pet might be messy.
Without a regular clear out of pens and hutches, the rabbit’s urine will produce a strong smell that is not present. If kept indoors, they will need to understand that keeping any precious belongings away from your rabbit’s chewing habits is necessary, as well as any electrical items that could prove disastrous.
For example, a cordless mobile vacuum with an additional mop feature is one product that will make managing the rabbit’s pen much easier.
Ongoing attention should also be paid to the length of a rabbit’s nails. Teach your child to assess when their pet’s nails might need cutting, as well as how to hold them properly, as this is likely to not come naturally to them. See earlier for handling tips and how to steady a rabbit’s back so it does not buck and injure itself.
Be sure to inform your child that a pet rabbit might not always mean peace and quiet either. They may not bark like dogs, but they can stamp their back feet very hard. Furthermore, some children may catch allergies from pet rabbits, so consider whether they have shown signs of this when interacting with animals in the past.
Although they can be shy at first, a rabbit will ultimately want to socialize. So, if your child is likely to grow disinterested in their pet in favor of other pursuits then this will not make for a successful purchase. Adding a second rabbit can help to ensure your pet always has company, but this will be more expensive and potentially more problematic if you chose poorly.
Compared to many other pets, rabbits represent a fairly inexpensive option. They don’t need regular vet checkups like dogs, and their food supply should set you back no more than $25–50 a month, even if you treat them to vegetables, pellets, and chew toys alongside their hay provision.
In terms of getting started, a cage size of around 30” to 36” inches is ideal for a rabbit. These can be as cheap as $40–$60 but still be quality. Smaller cages are not advised as a rabbit can become uncomfortable, develop sores, put on weight, or become depressed. An older and bigger rabbit may need an upgrade to a 6ft by 2ft cage, featuring a more extensive free-range section. This will also mean a deeply-wired gate to safeguard your pet at night – you never know when other animals might be about.
Veterinary treatments for sick rabbits are also fairly cheap in comparison to cats and dogs.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do consider a rabbit as an excellent idea for a child needing an ESA (emotional support animal).
- Do allow the kids to get to know their pets through gentle cuddles and bonding.
- Do make sure your veterinarian specializes in rabbits, as so many are too used to dealing with dogs and cats only.
- Do not think it is a good idea to feed rabbit sweets, which their diet will detest and possibly even prove fatal via a deadly G1 stage condition.
- Do not put your rabbit in a bath, as their skin does not respond well to being soaked and such a chore might shock them, or even lead to hypothermia.
- Do not give in to the temptation to pick up a rabbit by the scruff of its neck, so always make sure their back is supported when lifting. Being picked up by the scruff of the neck causes a rabbit to think it has been seized by a predator, leading to a state of shock.
- Do not trust an outdoor enclosure that is not well-ventilated, or which offers no safety from passing predators.
A robust enclosure, in which your rabbit can stay safe and warm, combined with a child that is willing to act responsibly and bond with their pet makes for an excellent mix and rewarding experience. In short, a rabbit is a great choice for a pet so long as the owners are also good owners.